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Finnish lawmaker arrested after trying to breach Gaza border fence

Palestinians hurl Israeli tear gas grenades back at Israeli troops during a clash at the border between Israel and eastern Gaza Strip in December. Finnish lawmaker Anna Kontula was arrested this week for trying to cut through a fence at the border. Photo by Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE
Palestinians hurl Israeli tear gas grenades back at Israeli troops during a clash at the border between Israel and eastern Gaza Strip in December. Finnish lawmaker Anna Kontula was arrested this week for trying to cut through a fence at the border. Photo by Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE

Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Anna Kontula, a member of Finland's Parliament, was held for 10 hours in Israel Monday after she was arrested for trying to cut through a border fence that separates the country and the Gaza Strip.

Kontula, a member of Finland's liberal Left Alliance Party, said she and other human rights activists arrested with her were trying to bring attention to arms trade between Finland and Israel and the crisis in Gaza.

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"Finland is supporting stakeholders that benefit from the continuing occupation and military activity by Israel," Kontula said in a statement. "By acquiring weapons systems from Israel, Finland also gets to benefit from the development of weapons technology carried out in occupied areas.

"[The arms trade sends] the political message that there are no consequences for the over half-a-century-long occupation and serious infringements of international law by Israel," Kontula said.

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Israel said the Gaza border fence is needed to prevent terrorism and guide the movement back and forth through five crossings between Israel, Gaza and Egypt.

Israel's security forces detained the activists for interrogation Monday morning, released them later that day and banned them from entering the south of Israel.

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Kontula's assistant Taneli Hamalainen said Tuesday that Israeli authorities tried to pressure the legislator to sign a statement admitting to charges of obstructing an investigation and endangering public safety, which she refused.

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Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said officials will look into Kontula's arrest.

"I still don't know enough about the Kontula case, but of course members of Parliament should have immunity and their work should be respected," Haavisto said. "Of course one should always abide by a country's rules and regulations. But we will see if we can assist in this case."

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